While last night may have been the coming out party for Kings rookie guard Isaiah Thomas, it certainly wasn’t unexpected to fans who followed the 5’8 point guard since his tenure at the University of Washington. How Thomas lasted until the final pick of the 2011 draft will forever remain a mystery, but there’s no doubt that right now – he’s one of the most NBA ready players from the entire draft class.
For Thomas, he struggled to find playing time early in the year with the Kings backcourt so log-jammed (and Westphal in charge), but given Isaiah’s recent performances Keith Smart will be forced to get the young guard more time if he doesn’t want to catch the heat of King fans early in his tenure. The problem for Smart however will be finding the minutes for Thomas behind Tyreke Evans, Marcus Thornton and Jimmer Fredette.
Despite Evans’ poor play early in the year and Thornton’s off and on game, there’s little chance Thomas will eat into anything more than a few minutes of their floor time so the most likely player to lose minutes in the rotation would be Jimmer Fredette, who while very talented, has struggled finding his place.
While Fredette certainly needs floor time (especially given the lack of practice time) – it’s clear given the recent performances, Isaiah Thomas gives the Kings the best chance to win games, but how will Smart do so?
As mentioned above, cutting into Fredette’s minutes will be the most likely (and logical) option, but other situations present themselves – such as allowing Evans to play the two guard during downtime for Thornton or even moving Evans to small forward depending on particular matchups. Evans at small forward isn’t something I’d like to see full time, but, I could certainly get behind it for stretches if it allowed Thomas to get more time on the floor.
However Smart decides to play it will be up to him, but once Marcus Thornton returns he’ll run into an issue of playing time for the Kings backcourt – so he’ll need to get crafty. Whatever the situation though, Thomas has shown he’s worthy of more time and how needed a floor general is to this current crop of Kings.